Friday, 7 March 2014

Team News: ENC 1A March 8


Team news ahead of the fourth round of ENC 1A matches for 2014 and 9th round of Rugby World Cup qualification.

 Romania v Belgium Belgium
Venue: Stadionul Mihai Naca, Constanta
Kickoff: 14:30 (local time), 13:30 (Brussels), 12:30 (GMT).

For Romania: Sensing an easy home win, Lynn Howells has decided to rest key players in his starting lineup against Belgium to focus on the trip to Tbilisi. Howells used just 16 starters over the first 3 games but now the captain Mihai Macovei, star back Catalin Fercu and hooker Andrei Radoi all take a rest.
Vlad Nistor

Dorin Manole finally gets his first start wearing his preferred 15 shirt after being prevented in doing so by Vlaicu and Fercu his whole career. Whilst the match will also offer an opportunity to see one of the top rated prospects in Romania the teenager Vlad Nistor of Castres start.

With Eugen Capatana getting just his second start in 14 caps with Radoi taking a rest, it means on the bench young 20 year old hooker Alexandru Oancea is in line to make his international debut. Meanwhile it increasingly appears that Romania's Georgian hooker Otar Turashvili who started all of the Oaks games in November has fallen out of the selection picture.

The Romanian team is closer to full strength than the one Georgia are picking this weekend, but the individuals missing are some of the top players. The in form props Lazar and Ion though, who have caused havoc at the scrums in all the previous matches are retained.

Starting XV: 15 Dorin Manole; 14 Madalin Lemnaru, 13 Csaba Gal, 12 Florin Vlaicu, 11 Ionut Dumitru; 10 Valentin Calafeteanu, 9 Florin Surugiu; 1 Mihai Lazar, 2 Eugen Capatana, 3 Paulica Ion; 4 Marius Sirbe, 5 Valentin Poparlan; 6 Viorel Lucaci, 7 Vlad Nistor, 8 Stelian Burcea (c).
Replacements: 16 Alexandru Oancea, 17 Constantin Pristavita, 18 Horatiu Pungea; 19 Cristian Munteanu, 20 Alexandru Mitu; 21 Catalin Fercu, 22 Florin Ionita, 23 Cristian Dinis.

For Belgium: Yet to announce their team but four of the starting XV that lost the crucial game with Portugal are not named in the 23, including young Pau tighthead Maxime Jadot and regular flanker Andrew Neill. Scrum half Julien Berger also again is not in the squad and young winger Jens Torfs is injured. Considering the absentees Belgium may be battling just to stay close to Romania here as their debut ENC experience looks to be approaching it's finish.

Squad: Guillaume Brébant, Hendrik Brouwers, Alexis Cuffolo, Thomas de Molder, Thomas Dienst, Benoit Goffin, Sébastien Guns, Dirk Haghedooren, Pierre Hendrickx, Anthony Scozzari, Brieuc Frateur, Julien Massimi, Alain Miriallakis, Julien Morelli, Cyril Nana, Guillaume Piron, Sylvain Roos, Savenaca Vocea, Eliott van Trappen, Bastian Vermeylen, Mathieu Verschelden, William Hubert, Alan Williams.

 Russia v Portugal
Venue: Sochi Central Stadium
Vladimir Ostroushko
Kickoff: 15:00 (local time), 14:00 (Lisbon/GMT)

For Russia: Returning to their Sochi home after the Winter Olympics finished, Russia have made 5 changes to the side that lost 36-10 in Georgia. Notably the dangerous winger Vladimir Ostroushko returns for the first time this year following injury. Also returning are the Tsnobiladze brothers who refuse to face their home country Georgia.

Andrey Garbuzov and Pavel Butenko both start with captain Alexander Voytov and Victor Gresev picking up injuries and giant prop Innokenty Zykov is promoted to the starting lineup, which is a surprise given he came on as part of a scrum that got destroyed for a penalty try against Georgia.

Russia need just one win from either of their next games with Portugal and Belgium to secure a World Cup playoff place, and even losing both a couple of bonus point would probably be sufficient.

Starting XV: 15 Vasily Artemyev; 14 Vladimir Ostroushko, 13 Dimitri Gerasimov, 12 Alexei Makovetskiy, 11 Igor Galinovskiy; 10 Yury Kushnarev, 9 Alexander Yanyushkin (c); 1 Alexei Volkov, 2 Valery Tsnobiladze, 3 Innokenty Zykov; 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 5 Kirill Kulemin; 6 Pavel Butenko, 7 Andrei Garbuzov, 8 Andrei Temnov.
Replacements: 16 Vladislav Korshunov, 17 Grigory Tsnobiladze, 18 Andrei Igretsov; 19 Pavel Kvernadze, 20 Alexander Khudyakov; 21 Alexander Shakirov, 22 Sergey Sugrobov, 23 Vladimir Rudenko.

Julien Bardy
For Portugal: 3 alterations are made to the starting lineup. 2 in the back row as Clermont back rower Julien Bardy offers a big boost to the side by returning from injury, whilst Kevin da Costa swaps with Fernando Almeida on the bench. The other change is the 38 year old António Aguilar swapping with Tomás Noronha on the bench.

The team isn't quite at full strength with José Lima and Aurélien Beco injured, whilst Francisco Fernándes hasn't featured since the opening Romania game.

Portugal still have a slim chance of qualifying for the playoff place, but even if they win this game they'd still need to do so comfortably and hope for an upset in Belgium next week. Something to note in the Portugal team is that number 8 Vasco Uva will win his 92nd cap which equals the record set by Cristian Petre of most capped player outside Tier 1, aged 31 it looks likely he will be the first player outside Tier 1 to reach the 100 cap milestone.

Starting XV: 15 Nuno Penha e Costa; 14 Gonçalo Foro, 13 Pedro Ávila, 12 Carl Murray, 11 António Aguilar; 10 Diogo Miranda, 9 Emmanuel Rebelo; 1 Jorge Seguardo, 2 João Correia (c), 3 Cristian Spachuk; 4 Eric Santos, 5 Gonçalo Uva; 6 Kevin da Costa, 7 Julien Bardy, 8 Vasco Uva.

Replacements: 16 Bruno Medeiros, 17 Francisco Tavares, 18 Bruno Rocha; 19 Fernando Almeida, 20 Vasco Mendes; 21 Luís Salema, 22 Francisco Magalhães, 23 Tomás Noronha.

 Spain v Georgia
Venue: Estadio Nacional Complutense, Madrid
Kickoff: 16:00 (local time), 19:00 (Tbilisi), 15:00 (GMT)

For Spain: Against it's all change for Spain, only six players (Sempere, Snee, Malie, Auzqui, Cook and Gibouin) from the Romania game keep their starting place, the other 9 all missed that game completely. Captain Feijoo and centre Nava both drop down to the bench after being two of the few players who started all of the previous 3 games.

Peluchon returns at full back for the first time since the Russia game, Labbe, Moreno, Recuerda, Negrillo, Poggi and Belzunce all return after skipping the Romania game. Whilst Bonán and Rouet both receive their first starts of the tournament.  On the bench Tudela makes the side for the time this year.
Franck Labbe

Overall this is a Spanish side much closer to first choice than the one that faced Romania and having two experienced props in the starting lineup will be a big boost as they hope to challenge a weakened Georgian side. Even if Spain just manage a losing bonus point that would mean with an expected Belgian defeat in Romania that they'd be staving off relegation barring anything abnormal.

Starting XV: 15 Mathieu Peluchon; 14 Marcos Poggi, 13 César Sempere, 12 Daniel Snee, 11 Pierre Belzunce; 10 Charlie Malie, 9 Guillaume Rouet; 1 Franck Labbe, 2 Beñat Auzqui, 3 Jesús Moreno; 4 Anibal Bonán, 5 Jesús Recuerda (c); 6 Matt Cook, 7 Gautier Gibouin, 8 Federico Negrillo.

Replacements: 16 Marco Pinto, 17 Francisco Sanz; 18 Damien Elgoyhen, 19 David Barrera; 20 Pablo Feijoo, 21 Jaime Nava, 22 Matías Tudela; 23 Agustín Ortiz.

Vazha Khutsishvili
For Georgia: Milton Haig has decided to make 8 changes to his starting lineup with an eye on next week's probable decided against Romania. Just Kote Mikautadze and Mamuka Gorgodze are left from the pack from the last game against Russia. In the backs, scrum half Vazha Khutsishvili gets only his second start in his 10th cap with Giorgi Begadze dropping to the bench, whilst veteran 33 year old centre Tedo Zibzibadze gets a run out ahead of Davit Kacharava.

On the bench there is a recall for 26 year old Brive prop Karlen Asieshvili for the first time since Georgia's ENC defeat to Spain. That selection raises doubt over the international career of Davit Khinchagishvili of Racing-Métro, still just 31 and first choice at the 2011 World Cup but Haig has preferred to select prospects like Nariashvili and Zhvania ahead of him.

Considering what happened last time Haig took a weakened team to Madrid resting half the first choice team has to be seen as a bit of a risk, as despite the expected comfortable victory it's still a must win game. Unlike Romania who have gone for a tactic of just resting a couple big players, Georgia have gone the opposite way of resting most of the first choice team but keeping the star players like Gorgodze and Sharikadze.

Starting XV: 15 Merab Kvirikashvili; 14 Irakli Machkhaneli (c), 13 Tedo Zibzibadze, 12 Merab Sharikadze, 11 Tamaz Mchedlidze; 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vazha Khutsishvili; 1 Zura Zhvania, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 3 Levan Chilachava; 4 Giorgi Nemsadze, 5 Kote Mikautadze; 6 Giga Tkhilaishvili, 7 Mamuka Gorgodze, 8 Giorgi Chkhaidze.
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Karlen Aseishvili, 18 Anton Peikrishvili; 19 Shalva Sutiashvili 20 Givi Berishvili; 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Lasha Malaguradze, 23 Beka Tsiklauri.


  1. Men of the match, Mamukashvili and Mchedlidze.

  2. Good article, but Romania was missing a few more important players in this match: Valentin Ursache (Oyonnax, injured), A. Ursache (Carcassone, not released), Ovidiu Tonita (Carcassone, injured) and Alin Coste (Bourg en Bresse, injured).